Oakland on its way back to letter grades

An initiative of an Oakland University Student Congress President from the past is finally coming into fruition. The 2015-16 OUSC President, Nick Walter, set out to fix what he called the “Big 4.” He wanted more electrical outlets, more swag, more study space and more 4.0’s for students.

He accomplished all four. OUSC gave out plenty of swag that year, more electrical outlets were added to the Oakland Center, an OC renovation was set in motion, that we’re now experiencing, and Oakland created a committee to change its grading scale from grade point averages to letter grades.

“I’ve said it before, and it still is true for me: If OUSC had accomplished absolutely nothing this year, nothing at all, and yet we had fixed this grading scale, I would consider it one of the most successful administrations of all time,” Walter said in his final President’s report.

The problem with Oakland’s grading scale was that it was one of the hardest in the state. Back in 1963, the Oakland University Senate voted to create a 0.5-4.2 grading scale that went through few changes throughout the years. Then, starting in 2009, Oakland put in the system we have today. Under that system, a 4.0-3.6 is seen as an A while 3.0-3.5 is seen as a B.

Those assigned letter grades to a wide range of GPAs result in Oakland students appearing to have worse grades than they actually do when it comes time to apply for graduate education. So, starting in fall 2018, Oakland will assign letter grades for classes instead of individual GPAs.

“This is going to be more like many other institutions,” said Tricia Westergaard, the interim registrar. “It’ll help students when they look at their transcripts compared to other students from other schools who might be competing for seats in graduate programs. So, I think it will just help our students be more competitive as they’re taking their next steps.”

When the new scale takes effect in September 2018, students who have already received GPAs will keep those numeric grades on their transcripts and simply receive letter grades moving forward. Students’ cumulative GPAs will still remain part of the grading process after this change.

“Every current student at Oakland through the summer of 2018 is going to follow our current numeric grading scale,” Westergaard said. “So their academic history is going to be numerically graded and starting in the fall, they’ll see letter grades. Nothing from a historical standpoint will change.”

On top of the change to letter grading, the registrar is bringing another change that will help students earn better grades. In the cumulative GPA, the second decimal point will now be rounded up based on the third decimal point.

“So a student with a 2.999 grade point average would be rounded to a 3.0 starting this fall,” Westergaard said. “And a student with a 2.991 would stay with a 2.99. Students will either see the same GPA or a slightly rounded higher GPA.”

Westergaard says both of these changes should make students more competitive in graduate school and scholarship applications. As the change nears in the fall, the Office of the Registrar and departmental academic advising will be open to helping students with questions.